The eve of the U.S. Sen. run-off election fell on Arekia Bennett's 26th birthday, but she hardly paused to celebrate. Decked out in a "Fannie Lou Taught Me" T-shirt, she flitted from one end of Jackson to the other, speaking on panels and holding last-hour voter engagement events at her alma mater, Jackson State University.
"It's not just the shirt because I'm cute, and I'm woke or whatever, but it means something to me," Bennett, the executive director of Mississippi Votes, said in an interview.
She showed up on campus with dozens of pizza boxes, as the organization she chartered on campus, GIRL: Gathering Information Related to Ladies, prepared to host actress Erika Alexander, best known for her role as Maxine Shaw in the 1990s sitcom "Living Single."
Bennett was nervous but excited then. But, just 24 hours later, she traded anxiety for disappointment and confliction.
Sen. Cindy-Hyde Smith was elected to serve in Washington, D.C., for the next two years, as she finishes the term of Sen.Thad Cochran, who retired last spring. She thanked God, her family, the governor and the president, in that order, when she spoke after the win. Then she started thanking the people who elected her, promising to hold true to Republican values while also unifying the rest of the state.
"You know, this win tonight, this victory is about our conservative values," Hyde-Smith said in an overly chilled, carpeted hotel ballroom at The Westin in downtown Jackson. "It's about the things that mean the most to all of us Mississippians: our faith, our family. It's those things that I will take to Washington, D.C. I want to represent all of Mississippians with these values, and I will fight for it, I assure you, every single day."
Hyde-Smith said she won because Mississippians know what is in her heart, and for